What is math anxiety?

By Daniel Ansari, PhD

At a glance

  • Math anxiety is an intense feeling of worry about math, or fear of math.

  • Even kids who have strong math skills can experience math anxiety.

  • It’s different from dyscalculia, but the signs can look similar.

Math anxiety is more than getting stressed out over a math test. It’s an intense feeling of worry or fear people have when they have to do a math task. It can happen at home, at school, or at work.

For example, kids may feel anxiety when teachers explain a math problem in class. They may also feel anxious when they have to do math homework. Or when they compare themselves to other kids.

Kids can feel anxious about math without it becoming a problem. A little stress about a math assignment can even help kids be more productive.

But math anxiety is different and more serious. It can cause kids to avoid math, lose interest in school, or even do math problems wrong when they know the answers.

Math anxiety isn’t a diagnosis, but this fear of math is very common. Researchers believe about 3 to 5 percent of kids experience math anxiety.

Adults can experience math anxiety, too.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Daniel Ansari, PhD is a professor in developmental cognitive neuroscience at Western University, Canada.